The Last Supper – da Vinci’s milestone of the Renaissance

The Last Supper’ by Leonardo da Vinci is one of the most famous and important murals in the world. It depicts the scene from the New Testament in which Jesus announces to his disciples during their last meal together before his crucifixion that one of them will betray him. The painting is considered a milestone of the Renaissance and marks the pinnacle of Leonardo da Vinci’s work as a painter.

History of the creation of the masterpiece

The mural ‘The Last Supper’ is located on the north wall of the refectory (dining room) of the Dominican monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan. The monastery was remodelled in the 15th century by the Duke of Milan, Ludovico Sforza, as a family mausoleum. The Duke commissioned the Italian Renaissance artist Leonardo da Vinci to create the mural to decorate the church. The artist began work in 1495 and took around four years to complete it.

The painting measures 4.6 x 8.8 metres and is executed using the secco technique, which means that the colours were applied to the dry plaster. This technique allowed da Vinci to create more detail and shading than would have been possible with a fresco. However, it also made the painting more susceptible to moisture and mould. Over the course of time, numerous damages and changes occurred, which were repeatedly repaired through restoration.

Valuable cultural asset and religious heritage

Da Vinci’s painting is a cultural and religious heritage that attracts and inspires numerous visitors. It can only be visited in small groups of a maximum of 25 people. The maximum length of stay in the refectory is 15 minutes. These measures have been taken to protect the delicate mural and preserve its condition. Da Vinci’s work shows a perfect perspective, a harmonious composition and a naturalistic depiction of the figures. The painting is divided into four groups of three apostles, each showing a different reaction to the words of Jesus. Jesus stands in the centre, calm and composed, with his hands on the table. He is framed by a window that forms a golden section. Da Vinci succeeded in depicting the apostles in a particularly lively and expressive way, with individual facial features and gestures.

Leonardo da Vinci: the all-round genius of the Renaissance

Leonardo da Vinci was an Italian artist, scientist, engineer and inventor who is regarded as one of the greatest geniuses in history. He lived from 1452 to 1519 and was a leading figure of the Renaissance, a cultural movement that overcame the Middle Ages and ushered in modern thinking. Da Vinci was a pioneer of anatomy, botany, geology and optics, who explored the human body, plants, the earth and light. Numerous sketches and models of machines and devices show that he was far ahead of his time. He designed flying machines, parachutes, tanks, submarines, bridges, canals and weapons. His most famous painting is the ‘Mona Lisa’, which hangs in the Louvre in Paris. The painting has been the target of vandalism several times in the past.

‘Mona Lias’ – the target of environmental extremists

Most recently, two environmental extremists attacked the world-famous work of art in January 2024, pouring soup over the painting and linking this infantile action to the demand for a right to healthy food. Just as if the ladies had previously been denied this right. We can only speculate as to what Leonardo da Vinci would have thought of such actions. The fact is that the all-round genius lived in the heyday of the Renaissance. This era was characterised by social and scientific upheaval. Groundbreaking inventions that still influence people’s lives today, such as the printing press, the telescope, the pocket watch and the globe, were invented during this period. It was a time when creative minds came up with unprecedented inventions. The masters of the Renaissance 500 years ago would probably have had little sympathy for the destructive activities of so-called ‘environmentalists’.